The New Philanthropists

Dorothy Clark of the 20/20 Sisters of Vision wrote the following article two years for an online magazine.

Are there any philanthropists living in your neighborhood? When you think of charitable donors, you might think of Bill Gates, Oprah Winfrey or Bill Cosby. Over the last decade, we saw the development of grassroots philanthropy in the form of giving circles. These circles are like-minded friends, neighbors, or family members who pool their resources and make joint decisions on grant-making. An active network of circles started here in North Carolina.

Eight years ago Darryl Lester began organizing young African-Americans in the South “to strategically invest their time, talent and treasures back into their communities in an effort to address issues of race and equity.” His efforts led to the creation of the Community Investment Network (CIN) headquartered in North Carolina. CIN, according to the stated mission, “…inspires, connects and strengthens African Americans and communities of color to leverage their collective resources and create the change THEY wish to see.”  The organization currently includes giving circles across the South as well as in Pennsylvania and Colorado.

20/20 Sisters of Vision in Durham, NC is representative of the member circles. It was organized three years ago by Joanne Jennings and Denise Rowson. They regularly solicited $20 donations from friends to help out someone in financial crisis. But they wanted to be more systematic in their giving. They invited a group of friends to share a meal and to talk about their giving philosophies. Finding that they had similar goals, they decided to form a giving circle and to fund organizations that empower and improve the lives of women and children. They selected the Triangle Community Foundation to host their funds. Past grants recipients include the Interfaith Hospitality Network, Durham Center for Senior Living, and Angel Food Ministries. Their current project is to sponsor a fundraiser in March to raise funds for a group in Eastern North Carolina.

The increase in giving circles shows that there are philanthropists at every income level. If you’d like to find out how to start your own circle, or support an existing one, get more information at You can make a difference in your community.


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